Trend alert! The current craze spreading across many Mass. towns is proposals to ban items residents find offensive, unhealthy, bad for the environment, or even just annoying.
Here is a roundup of the latest ideas from the region.
After months of debate, Concord residents voted to ban the sale of single-serving plastic water bottles. The ban went into effect at the beginning of 2013.
The attorney general's office signed off on the bylaw, making the sale of single-serving plastic water bottles 1 liter or less illegal.
The town became the first community in the nation to outlaw the bottles in an effort to improve the environment.
Some were worried that local shops might lose out money to neighboring towns still selling water bottles. Concord resident Michael Benn submitted a citizen’s petition to repeal the ban in October 2013, saying that he was “trying to protect common sense,” but his repeal was resoundingly defeated at a Town Meeting in December.
In Arlington, students are pushing for a water bottle ban, saying it would benefit the environment. However, the town rejected the proposal which was modeled after Concord’s bottle ban. Officials said they voted against it because the ban would force residents to go out of town to buy water.
The ban was voted on at a Town Meeting just one day after banning Styrofoam food containers. City officials said they hoped the ban would inspire other communities to enact environmentally friendly laws. The law does not affect convenience stores or sandwich shops.
The Cambridge City Council requested that the city draft a ordinance banning the use of plastic bags. If drafted, the ordinance would need approval by the city council before being put into effect.
Styrofoam food containers
Starting Dec. 1, polystyrene-based disposable food containers will be banned in Brookline. The ban will affect more than 350 local food service businesses.
Brookline’s ban was inspired by a visit to a Dunkin' Donuts in another town. As a result, Dunkin’ Donuts and other restaurants that serve hot coffee in plastic foam cups will have to use an alternative cup in Brookline beginning in December of 2013.
Cambridge is exploring a similar ban. Without any discussion, the council approved a request to draft a law that would be similar to Brookline’s. The idea was considered two years ago. It could be several months before a final vote on banning Styrofoam occurs, officials said.
Somerville approved outlawing the materialin its take-out restaurants in May.
In some communities, such as Arlington, Hingham, Dedham, and Cambridge, officials are investigating moratoriums on medical marijuana sales.
Wellesley is next to consider a ban with a vote scheduled in April.
The Needham Board of Selectmen voted unanimously for a moratorium on dispensaries and marijuana cultivation, and their sponsored article will be brought before a town meeting in May.
The mayor of Lynn, however, vetoed a restriction on marijuana dispensaries, citing a fear that it was unconstitutional.
Bucking a regional trend, the town of Norwell made zoning changes to accommodate medical marijuana dispensaries.
The proposals comes on the heels of the legalization of medicinal marijuana and treatment centers in Massachusetts, which was approved by voters Nov. 6.
In Essex County, groups filed 16 applications for medical marijuana dispensary licenses. In Middlesex and Suffolk counties, 68 applications were filed. Nineteen applications were filed in Plymouth County. In Norfolk and Bristol counties, groups submitted a combined 21 license applications, according to a statewide list released by the Department of Public Health.
Pictured: A legislative liason for Medical Marijuana Caregivers of Maine inspects marijuana.
Since the 1800s, homeowners in this seaside peninsula have been renting out their houses for the summer to make some extra money for the rest of the year.
“It’s a practice almost as old as the tourism industry — a tradition that’s always been there,” said local historian John Galluzzo.
Galluzzo said he — and countless others — were surprised when the Hull building commissioner recently ordered four homeowners to stop renting to vacationers, saying the town’s zoning bylaws don’t allow the practice in residential neighborhoods.
The controversy started over the winter when a group of homeowners led by Mark Gladstone — an attorney in Canton who owns 117 Beach Ave. — filed a complaint with the Building Department about two houses being rented near his in the scenic Kenberma section of town. One house — 119 Beach Ave.— overlooks the beach and the other — 110 Manomet Ave. — is around the corner.
The complaint was that the rentals were businesses in an area zoned for single-family residences, said Building Commissioner Peter Lombardo. Two of the property owners have appealed, and the Board of Appeals will hold a hearing Aug. 29 on the ruling, which Lombardo acknowledges potentially could affect hundreds of residential properties in town. Next
Public consumption of marijuana
At recent town meetings Norwood and Walpole adopted bylaws banning the public consumption of marijuana including by those who are authorized to use medical marijuana under the state law adopted by voters last year. Violators would be subject to a $300 fine under the Norwood bylaw, and fine of $100 for the first offense, $200 for the second, and $300 for the third and subsequent offenses under the Walpole law. Both measures require approval by the state Attorney General's office. The two towns seek to join 76 other communities with approved bans.
“I think most people would agree that someone sitting on a park bench smoking marijuana is probably a bad idea, just from a public order perspective,” said Norwood Police Chief William G. Brooks, who proposed the bylaw in his town.
But Bill Downing, treasurer of the Massachusetts Cannabis Reform Coalition, which supports legalization of marijuana, said local bans on public consumption of the drug go against the expressed wishes of the voting public.
“People have now twice had the opportunity to tell the state what they want regarding the regulation of marijuana . . . and both times they told the state they want them to moderate the regulation of marijuana,” he said. “Some people just don’t get it.” Next
Transporting ethanol in residential areas
Some residents fear that ethanol transporter, Global Partners, will be putting them at risk by carrying ethanol by commuter rail through residential areas. They worry that a possible explosion, accidental or intentional, could have devastating consequences.
One amendment to the Senate's annual budget proposal, filed May 17, 2013 by Senators Anthony Petruccelli of East Boston, Sal DiDomenico of Everett, and Patricia Johlen of Somerville, would bar Massachusetts from giving licenses to facilities handling ethanol in densely populated communities. Another amendment proposes that firms handling ethanol fund training and equipment necessary to fight ethanol fires. Next
Self-service gas stations
Residents can’t pump their own gas in some Eastern Massachusetts towns, including Arlington, Weymouth, Milford, and Upton.
For many communities, the ban was enacted to avoid gasoline spills and fires. Some communities, such as Holbrook, have overturned this ban because of advances in fire suppresion.
A frustrated Arlington man plans to bring his case for a repeal of this ban in his city in front of the Arlington Board of Selectmen in mid-March.
Happy hour drink specials have been banned in Massachusetts since 1984, and a recent report by the Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission found that restauranteurs want them to stay that way.
Reason: The ban on discounted drinks followed the death of a Braintree woman by a driver who had consumed several drinks during a happy hour.
Concord resident Lydia Lodynsky was not fazed when the town rejected her proposal to put leashes on rowdy cats. She countered with a request that cats be prohibited from entering neighboring properties without permission in January.
Reasoning: Concord resident Lydia Lodynsky proposed this law due to a neighborhood cat, pictured, that would "terrorize" the birds in her yard.
Following New York City's footsteps, Cambridge is considering limiting the size of sodas in restaurants.
Reasoning: Cambridge Mayor Henrietta Davis proposed the idea due to the health risks caused by consuming too much soda.
Health experts voiced their support of the soda ban at a public meeting in January. Harvard School of Public Health professor Walter Willet called the proposed ban a “baby step” toward addressing the increasing rates of obesity and diabetes.
Arlington and Brookline are two towns that banned the use of gas-powered leaf blowers. The ban survived a special election vote twiceand was recently approved by the Attorney General.
Reasoning: The loudness of the machines were cited as the main cause.
Wellesley and Marblehead had similar proposals, but they were shot down.
Most recently, Arlington will hear proposals to soften the leaf blower ban for residential use.
Landscapers Dan Gray and Fred DeVito use gas powered leaf blowers in Marblehead.
The all-night shopping tradition known as "Midnight Madness," in which Black Friday shopping starts the night of Thanksgiving at Wrentham Village Premium Outlets, was almost halted.
City officials considering revoking the mall's permission to open early due to a dispute over installing security cameras. Store representatives recently responded that they were working on the camera installations and “look forward” to “Midnight Madness.”
Pictured: Ana Alves, left, of Cumberland, R.I, stood in line to pay for her purchases at the Gap in Wrentham Outlets in 2006 during Black Friday.
Residents in Middleborough overwhelmingly supported a ruling that gives police the authority to hand out $20 tickets for swearing in public.
On Tuesday, Attorney General Martha Coakley said she suspects the bylaw violates the First Amendment and asked for it to be removed or amended.
Adam Kokesh a Marine Corps veteran from Virginia, spoke through a megaphone in front of Town Hall in Middleborough during a rally in opposition to the proposed $20 fine.
Despite an attempt to overturn the rule, the ban on pitchers is still intact.
Although state law states that pitchers of beer can only be sold to a party of two or more, Braintree prohibits any sale of any alcohol beverages in pitchers.
Reasoning: The stricter status followed an alcohol-related death in 1983 at the Ground Round in Braintree. The victim was a 20-year-old Weymouth woman who was riding on the hood of a car in the parking lot, then fell off and was dragged under the car. The driver allegedly had several free beers as the result of a trivia game at the bar.
A Wrentham Housing Authority told residents that the public display of the American Flag was not permitted in common areas. The ban has since been reversed.
Reasoning: A letter explaining the ban said a tenant had complained repeatedly to the Department of Housing and Community Development, and had therefore resulted in the ban.
Currently, Gloucester bans dogs on its beaches during the spring and summer months, but from Sept. 16 to April 30, owners are allowed to bring their dogs to the shores, provided they clean up after their messes and keep them leashed. Dog owners are concerned that an upcoming city review of its leash laws could make Gloucester beaches off limits to dogs year-round. Here, Nancy Davis plays fetch with her dog Dash at Gloucester's Good Harbor Beach. Back to the beginning
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